5 important tasks you really should automate in your ecommerce store
We’ll go over the processes that a modern ecommerce store should automate in order to ensure scalability and cost-effective operation – and we’ll also present the pieces of software which this can be accomplished with.
Those who sell online and operate an ecommerce store, have their thoughts a lot around sustainable growth. The tasks become more numerous and more complex with time, and it’s impossible to keep operating an online shop offering several thousands of products with only the most basic automation.
What we will cover:
- Which tasks should you automate?
- Email communication
- Customer service
- Refunds and repayments
- Try these software solutions
- If This Than That
- What happens if you don’t automate?
Which tasks should you automate?
Let’s see which areas are those where sooner or later you’ll need to let at least part of the control out of your hands.
The most important communication channel of your online store is email.
You send letters to all of those who
- subscribe to your newsletter,
- purchase from you,
- register to your online shop,
- ask questions,
- send in complaints etc.
You have the possibility of writing and preparing almost all the emails in advance – a welcome email will not change a lot with time once you refined it to be effective, and you don’t need to write your campaigns along the way.
On the other hand, you can send all these letters out efficiently only if you leave the process with an automated system.
A system that’s
- capable of handling different customer groups,
- knows when exactly it has to send a message out,
- moreover, it knows what to do with someone who has never opened an email before,
- and knows how to make changes to the list by itself.
You cannot do this task yourself, and it wouldn’t even be reasonable if you did. There are great solutions thanks to which you really have to deal only with this: with communication itself and you don’t have to affix stamps to each letter yourself.
Based on that, I suggest you prepare as many letters as possible: for all occasions when there’s an important event or interaction an easily customizable template should be made, of which the system will know exactly when and who to send it out to.
Stocktaking is one of the most feared tasks of any commercial employee, no matter if we’re talking about an online or an offline shop. Keeping track of how many of what the stock contains by using human labour, tables, and continuous counting and recounting is not only a difficult task – doing this manually is not even efficient. The probability of errors is too high, which may lead to inconvenient feedback and loss of income.
It’s worthwhile paying attention to choosing an automated record keeping system that’s able to manage records of even several online shops
Synchronization should always be real-time, and you should choose an easily understandable and manageable user interface, if possible – you haven’t made much progress if you have to delve into the system for hours in order to find out how many pieces are left of a given product.
Your ecommerce store operates well if you never, not once have to talk to customers on the phone or even by email in order to settle payments. As a consequence, you need an online store engine into which gateway tools and other solutions, which take the task of managing and monitoring cash flow out of your hands, can be well integrated.
When choosing, you should bear in mind what kind of payment methods you can integrate (it does matter what sort of cards, online payment options have been built in, whether collect on delivery is an option, and so on), and also whether the system can at all be used perfectly in the country where your ecommerce store is operating.
It’s also worth paying attention to how much you pay in exchange for this comfort: most transaction automation services ask for a commission for the management of your cash flow, just like banks. If you are working with a low margin or your financial expenses are high anyway, you should carefully consider the choice between the different plans.
Automation of customer service brings back bad memories in most people: we all have already listened to Beethoven’s oeuvre many times while waiting for the operator of some large corporation, while pressing the various buttons in order to get through to the right place in the menu.
However, online automation is capable of making automation convenient for the customer as well. You can answer a lot of questions quite simply, without actual human intervention being necessary, because there’s a good chance that people just simply don’t find the information.
The companies doing customer service automation usually employ some kind of a ticket system. The user clicks through what he is dissatisfied about, and the customer service representative has to address the complaint or question only if the user doesn’t get a proper answer. However, thanks to going through the system, the problem is much better defined, more specific in the end, which means it can be solved more efficiently later on.
You can handle even the frequently asked questions as part of this: its purpose is to answer all questions that don’t need direct contact, only a bit of guidance.
Refunds and repayments
It doesn’t matter how good your product and your service is, you cannot please everyone. Since even the most advanced companies have unsatisfied customers, you have to take the time to deal with refunds and returns.
- 1 – You should document your process in detail: describe when exactly you should do what, when is there a need for assessment, when for intervention, so that there’s never a mix-up concerning that.
- 2 – Document properly the refund policy as well, so that it’s clear to the customers when you do what and why.
Then you can look for a service that’s able to automate all this. Such a service may be for example Returns Manager available for the Shopify system, which allows the customers to request the refund online.
All right – in order to automate all these processes, and maybe some others, too, you will need professional assistance: software solutions that were specifically developed for that purpose. We are just going to recommend you some of those.
Try these pieces of software
If This Than That
IFTTT’s name implies the principle according to which it operates: you can set a given reaction to a given action in a way that you still have access to several dozens of services, among which you can find Drive, Dropbox, Facebook, Instagram and a great deal of other channels as well.
It’s mainly automation of the communication that you can do with it, but not exclusively – you can set for example that if you change the profile photo on your corporate Facebook page, it changes on Twitter as well, or that the service sends you a text message if the price of a given share on the stock market increases above a certain level.
The bottom line is that you can set up your own automation processes, you can determine when should something happen, and you can do that pretty much freely.
This software has been specifically designed for online social presence, which helps you in not having to spend every free minute you have with the publishing of posts.
By using Buffer you can decrease the time spent on the management of your different channels to only a couple of hours – in case you have a content calendar compiled in advance and timed pieces of content, and you also know how you want to shape your communication in the forthcoming week, all you have to do is set in advance what Buffer should post and where, and you will only have to deal with reactions after that.
Hootsuite is basically used for the same purpose as Buffer: for the automation of your social channels.
What’s the difference?
If you want to manage several channels simultaneously, Hootsuite may be a better choice, just as it may also be that in case you would like to address your audience more directly.
Even though it’s somewhat more complicated, however, that’s because the functions are versatile as well. Hootsuite is the tool of the professionals, who are willing to put a lot of time and effort into running extremely powerful social campaigns.
Hootsuite is capable of enabling you to manage your Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram and WordPress channels at the same place, to time your publications, and it also provides you with analytical solutions to monitor how successful your efforts are.
It’s a simple piece of software, which allows you to present and offer your products for sale on several channels at the same time. It offers you a platform that enables you to easily and simply manage your inventory in one place, while automation will take most of the work out of your hands.
In addition, the service also provides extremely useful and detailed reports for you, with which you can increase the efficiency of your sales provided they are managed with competence.
We have already written about how your ecommerce store should communicate in email. You have to automate your messages, right from the acknowledgement of receipt and thank you emails to the personalized offers.
You can send these only to the right people – that is to say: with a cost-effective, low waste coverage – in the first place, in case you do proper segmentation.
Therefore, you need a service that doesn’t just send out the emails, but it can manage your lists as well, and it can also be integrated well with other services, so that the information relative to the segments always remains up-to-date.
And in this case it’s MailChimp you are looking for. Besides automated email send-outs you will also be provided with useful reports, which will help you with the further fine-tuning of your communication, thus increasing the open rate and the click-through rate and thus helping you with the steering the highest possible proportion of your recipients to conversion in the end.
Actually nothing, and that’s exactly what’s going to be bad for you.
What will happen? You will not be able to scale your business, you will not be able to deal with the really important things because you will still be struggling with tasks in your everyday life, which a machine, even a simple piece of software or algorithm would be able to carry out.
It’s not the task of a company leader to micromanage the work of each of his employees – and if he’s operating an online shop, even alone, it’s not his job to deal with every little task himself.
A good ecommerce store operates almost on its own, and all you should deal with is communication, marketing and business planning.
If you haven’t yet reached this level, you still have plenty of room for improvement in the field of ecommerce automation.
Sales and marketing manager
István is an eCommerce Solution Specialist with a deep understanding of the project management side of development. By putting a great emphasis on optimizing business and ecommerce, he helps web stores align business goals with functionality and recommends the most effective options to meet objectives, while avoiding unnecessary customization and costs. István loves canoeing on the River Tisza and practising judo.